Seattle can become just the fourth team to win a third straight U.S. Open Cup by beating Chicago on Tuesday.
TUKWILA — Even as team records were being established and playoff berths were being earned, Sounders FC players couldn’t help but think about Tuesday.
A third straight U.S. Open Cup final.
A chance to accomplish something — three consecutive championships — that no team has done in over 40 years.
Finally, the daydreaming is over. The game has come.
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“It certainly makes it easier to focus, because I think that was in the back of their minds all the way through,” said coach Sigi Schmid.
“I think the guys know it’s an opportunity to do something very special. We always talk about the more special things we can do the more special it makes the club, but (also) the more special it makes them as individual players.”
Sounders FC can take a giant step forward in what is shaping up to be a decorated season with a win against the Chicago Fire at 7 p.m. Tuesday. A CenturyLink Field crowd of more than 33,000 will be the biggest in the 98-year Open Cup, and plenty of other history will be on the line.
At home for a second straight championship game, Seattle is seeking the first threepeat since New York Greek-American (1967-69). The only other two teams to win three in a row were St. Louis Central Breweries/Stix, Baer & Fuller (1933-35) and Fall River Marksmen/New Bedford Whalers (1930-32).
Chicago could tie the record with five Open Cups, matching Bethlehem Steel (1915-16, 1918-19, 1926) and Maccabi Los Angeles (1973, 1975, 1978-79, 1981).
Such tradition is exactly what makes the tournament unique.
“It’s something that provides that link to soccer throughout the history of United States soccer and I would hate to see us throw that away,” said Schmid, who has played in the Open Cup himself.
In the buildup to Tuesday’s final, Schmid got an email from some former UCLA teammates who played on those Maccabi Los Angeles teams.
The message: “Even if you win, you still need two more to catch us.”
The Sounders will be expected to do just that. Not much has gone wrong for them recently.
Within the last two weeks, the team accomplished a trio of goals: clinching an MLS playoff berth, advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals and winning the Cascadia Cup.
Chicago’s interim coach, Frank Klopas, has admired from afar.
“Sigi Schmid is one of the top coaches in this league and I think he’s done a great job putting a fantastic team together,” said Klopas, who is also the team’s technical director.
“I think they’ve done a very good job as an organization as a whole.”
Schmid thinks back-to-back Open Cup championships had a profound impact for an expansion team hoping to establish itself as an instant contender.
“As a young club in MLS, winning the first two Open Cups that we did was tremendous in terms of our club’s recognition, in terms of our fans, in terms of the confidence of our team and our players, to realize that they can win a competition and that they can get through it,” the coach said.
That confidence has continued to grow this season.
“There’s obviously a lot of belief within in the team,” said goalkeeper Kasey Keller. “Regardless of being a goal down, we know we can come back. … Spirit’s good on the team.”
And for Keller, who is retiring after the season, a win Tuesday would go a long way in providing a special send-off.
“I’d be tremendously happy to go out winning another (Open Cup),” he said, “and there’s no reason why we can’t go on and challenge for the MLS Cup, as well. It’s exactly happening the way I wanted it to happen — that the team plays well, that my form’s been good and just finish on a high.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Cups runneth over|
|Sounders FC and Chicago have combined to win six U.S. Open Cups since 1998. A look at each team’s wins:|
|2009||Sounders FC||D.C. United||2-1|